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Dakota County Parks
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bflentje
Geocacher


Joined: 29 May 2006

Posts: 4041

PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

speedysk1 wrote:
bflentje wrote:
After spending quite a bit of time on the phone talking with Sgt. McGinn today, I've concluded this entire issue has nothing to do with geocaching and has EVERYTHING to do with saving face....


I suspect you are correct, but what's to save? No one is taking them to task or calling the media or in general making them look bad. I don't get it. They should just return the cache and move on. Now they definitely know about caching and may think before the react next time.


I agree. If the county attourney's office decides there is a case for citation I will make every attempt to get this in the media even if it works against me... ok, that's my angry side talking.. I don't know if it'd be wise or not.
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bflentje
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Joined: 29 May 2006

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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe we could get MNMizzou to get his crew out here to do a story about the coolness of themed geocaching..
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knowschad
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Joined: 20 Jun 2005

Posts: 470

PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bflentje wrote:
After spending quite a bit of time on the phone talking with Sgt. McGinn today, I've concluded this entire issue has nothing to do with geocaching and has EVERYTHING to do with saving face. Saving face because the 15 year old, the kids parents, and the responding law enforcement officer did NOT do ANY due diligence before overreacting.

The amount of misinformation coming from the Sheriff's Department is unbelievable. First they tried to tell me I violated their geocaching policy and didn't have a permit. We all know a policy does not exist and that there is no permit process. Today, McGinn told me that they could also cite me for digging and disturbing the soil because the cache was allegedly covered with soil. Their VERY own picture posted on the Sheriff's newsletter proves that is complete bunk.. check it out for yourselves.

THESE ARE YOUR COUNTY OFFICIALS.


So, where is Dakota County in all of this? Have they come forward with any statements about their position? After all, it was their land that the cache was on.
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Arcticabn
Past MnGCA Board


Joined: 30 Nov 2003

Posts: 1846

PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe we should all go to the posted coordinates 44 degrees 44
29.70 N by 92 degrees 53 09.72 W and ask for the geocache as they posted it so that we could sign the log book and post a find. Laughing
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bflentje
Geocacher


Joined: 29 May 2006

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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arcticabn wrote:
Maybe we should all go to the posted coordinates 44 degrees 44
29.70 N by 92 degrees 53 09.72 W and ask for the geocache as they posted it so that we could sign the log book and post a find. Laughing


I would love it if you all did that. Gilbey already tried it but the admin person had no idea how to handle his request..
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bflentje
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

knowschad wrote:
So, where is Dakota County in all of this? Have they come forward with any statements about their position? After all, it was their land that the cache was on.


Nothing other than the combative statements from Sgt McGinn. He said it was referred to the county attourney and they would decide what to do. But since McGinn also is in charge of parks dept, I do believe him when says a policy is immenent. And for the record, the county attourney is James Backstrom, the same guy that was fined and nearly disbarred for tampering with witnesses on a high profile case here in the county. But that's beside the point.

THESE ARE YOUR OFFICIALS
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bflentje
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Joined: 29 May 2006

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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone know if Sui Generis does pro bono work? How about Sparkyfry? Any other caching attourneys out there? I mean, just in case.
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Jam3s
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Joined: 26 Oct 2008

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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bflentje wrote:
Anyone know if Sui Generis does pro bono work? How about Sparkyfry? Any other caching attourneys out there? I mean, just in case.


If not, I am thinking that we could start a donation pool. I will contribute!
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knowschad
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I sent my letter off:

To: nancy.schouweiler@co.dakota.mn.us (District 4)

Quote:


Hello, Commissioner Schouweiler,

I am taking a moment to write you about a recent incident in Lebanon Hills Park that has greatly disturbed me, and I am hoping for your support in this matter. About five years ago, I discovered the exciting activity called "geocaching". In case you are not aware of it, geocaching began when, on May 1, 2000, President Clinton disabled "selective availability" of the GPS signal, effectively allowing the ordinary citizen to have GPS accuraccy good enough to allow them to find a spot within approximately 20-30 feet.

Only two days after that, a person by the name of Dave Ulmer hid the first geocache in the mountains outside of Portland, Oregon and posted the GPS coordinates on the internet, with a challenge for anyone to go and find it, and to log their find online.

Since that time, the activity has grown to where there are now over 800,000 caches hidden worldwide, and over 93,000 geocachers.

It is no secret that there are geocaches hidden in Dakota County parks. We have obtained assistance from Dakota County in the past for, among other things, what we all a Cache-In-Trash-Out event at Thompson Park in West St Paul, where the county not only suggested the park, but arranged for the trash bags, plastic gloves, and trash pickup for what we cleaned up.

Lebanon Hills Park itself has had various individuals create accounts on the geocaching site (www.geocaching.com) and have posted notes on certain caches in the park, where they would occasionally post messages about staying on the trails, etc.

So, there is no doubt that both the county and the park knew that this activity was going on in their parks.

The incident that I'm writing about involves a geocache that was part of a family-friendly Halloween geocache series. The final cache of the series involved a fake coffin, of the sort that hasn't been used since the 1800s, that was found by some teenage boys, one of which reported it to the sherrif's office.

Apparently this incident has been esclated to the point of absurdity. The sherrif (I believe I have the right office... the principal is a Sgt. McGinn) originally falsly claimed that the cache did not have a permit. Of course it didn't!!! Niether Dakota County nor Lebanon Hills has such a policy. Once that claim was proven false, St McGinn (and I am basing this on hearsay, of course) claimed that the coffin was buried. That claim is patently false, as proven by photographs taken by the officers on the scene, if not by the geocaching policies that would ban any geocaches that have been buried.

From my perspective, this has come down to a situation where the officials in charge of this are trying to save face in a rather embarrassing predicament, at the expense of a geocacher that has done nothing more than trying to provide some entertainment (at quite an expense to himself, by the way!) for others. He should be applauded for his efforts, yet instead he is being threatened with prosecution (under charges that are as yet undetermined, but the county attorneys are apparently trying their best to find something).

Your support in this matter, or at the very least, your serious investigation into this matter, will be very much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy missive.


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knowschad
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Joined: 20 Jun 2005

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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jam3s wrote:
bflentje wrote:
Anyone know if Sui Generis does pro bono work? How about Sparkyfry? Any other caching attourneys out there? I mean, just in case.


If not, I am thinking that we could start a donation pool. I will contribute!


Likewise, but let's hope it doesn't come down to that.
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bflentje
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you all kindly. I was told I'll know more this week but the week is winding down quickly.
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Pear Head
Past MnGCA President


Joined: 04 Apr 2004

Posts: 5699

PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bflentje wrote:
But since McGinn also is in charge of parks dept, I do believe him when says a policy is immenent.


I think this is where the board needs to get involved, although perhaps at a different level than McGinn.

Getting involved now protects the caches in the county as well as applying some helpful pressure for Bart from another direction.

It's especially important regarding the policy as you KNOW they're evaluating it on the fast track now.
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bflentje
Geocacher


Joined: 29 May 2006

Posts: 4041

PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pear Head wrote:
bflentje wrote:
But since McGinn also is in charge of parks dept, I do believe him when says a policy is immenent.


I think this is where the board needs to get involved, although perhaps at a different level than McGinn.

Getting involved now protects the caches in the county as well as applying some helpful pressure for Bart from another direction.

It's especially important regarding the policy as you KNOW they're evaluating it on the fast track now.


Thank you. The help I will need will need to be directed at county attourney's office so quite possibly, I can use the board to help define the contradictions of accepting geocaching and the ordinances their trying to utilize against me:



- Violated the geocaching policy and did not acquire a permit.

Geocaching is an accepted activity in Dakota County parks. The County Parks Department does NOT have an official geocaching policy and certainly a permit system does not exist. Sgt. McGinn mentioned that other municipalities have policies and that should have been my guidance. The bottom line is that the majority of municipalities do NOT have policies. And as a Dakota County resident, you cannot reasonably assume I would be responsible for knowing the details about other policies. Obviously, if I hid a cache in another system, I would be responsible. But as of today, I have NOT hidden a single cache within a municipal system that has a geocaching policy with the exception of State Forests, and I have followed the policy to the detail in that case.

- Personal property left in the park.

Since geocaching is accepted and my cache was officially listed on geocaching.com, one can assume that if the other 52 geocaches are exempt from that ordinance that my geocache is as well. And that does not even mention the geocaches residing in the remaining county park properties.

- Disturbance of Natural Resources (digging and disturbing vegetation).

Sgt. McGinn tried to convince me that the cache was covered with soil and if it was, where did the soil come from? What he is probably basing that on is that he saw a thumbnail picture on my website of the cache covered with leaves, but the leaves have no definition when the picture is sized down to a thumbnail. When you enlarge the photo, you clearly see dead leaves on the cache and not soil. Dead leaves that usually fall from the trees on their own accord in October, the time this cache was hidden. Not only can you go to GZ and find NO changes to the earth or surrounding vegetation, the picture on the Sheriff's own newsletter proves that the cache was not covered with soil.

- Hiking (straying off trail).

I am not certain how this can be applied when geocaching is an accepted activity in the park. Of the 52 geocaches listed in the park, all of which I've found, not a one resides directly on a trail. In addition, orienteering is also a commonly accepted activity in the park and the very nature of orienteering is to cross country off trail. The park sponsors orienteering events and in fact, it was an orienteer that stumbled upon my cache when he was off course.

- Littering.

Using the same definition as leaving personal property, if geocaching is sanctioned, and the cache is officially listed on geocaching.com (which has its own set of guidelines and requirements), this cannot be considered littering. In addition, Dakota County Parks has worked directly with the MN Geocaching Association in the past to sponsor Cache In Trash Out (CITO) events within their parks. There are two known events to have taken place in the past in addition to the unmeasurable amount of trash the average geocacher carries out on their own accord.

- Amusement Contraptions (this is the best one)

Sgt. McGinn mentioned that if the other ordinances didn't apply, he could apply this clause to a possible citation. The county park usage guidelines list amusement contraptions as the following:

"Amusement Contraption" means any contrivance, device, gadget, machine, or structure designed to test the skill or strength of the user or to provide the user with any sort of ride, lift, swing, or fall experience including, but not limited to, ball throwing contest devices, electronic videos, animal ride devices, dunk tanks, ball and hammer devices, trampoline devices and the like."

Geocaching might be for our personal amusement but it certainly is not a contraption, especially when defined by the above text. A wooden box lying in the woods, doesn't require any skill, doesn't make any noise, and it certainly does not contain any self moving parts.

The Dakota County Park Policy can be found here..

The 2030 Dakota County Park System Plan can be found here. It contains documented acceptance of geocaching.
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loneeagle_24
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that the fact that there have been events held in their parks and approved would be a big help in this along with any logs about cleaning going on in the parks (CITO) any caches are reffering to. Let's hope it doesn't come to the legal process though.
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Jam3s
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am wondering at what point we need to get the media involved. With all the publicity towards geocaching in Minnesota I think that the media would be very willing to do a story on this. At the same time, I think that Dakota County might be really shocked if the media became involved.

The only downfall that I see is that I am worried that this might discourage others from placing caches if they seen something on the news of how the sheriff's department is investigating someone for placing a cache.
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